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Close up photo of different types of eggs resting in a a sheet of styrofoam. Close up photo of different types of eggs resting in a a sheet of styrofoam.

Ambiguous Standards Institute: An Institute within an Institute

Feb 11–June 7, 2021



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Architect Cansu Cürgen (born 1988) and designer Avşar Gürpınar (born 1982), founded the Ambiguous Standards Institute (ASI) in 2014 in Istanbul to investigate how our lives are inevitably shaped and impacted by standards—whether for time, measurements, building components, food, or health care. Most often conceived as a way to maximize efficiency, standards have been envisioned as a way to organize an increasingly complex world.

Through their investigations, ASI reveals the invisible networks of standards—codes, quantities, or qualities—embedded in everyday objects and interactions that we use on a daily basis, ranging from birth control pill packets and carry-on bags, to hand gestures, kitchen utensils, and items used during public protests.

An open wooden box features a video screen embedded in its hinged lid, upon which two figures use kitchen devices. Nestled in the box, in foam holes that fit their shapes, are various small kitchen utensils.

Their research also makes clear that although the world is becoming more standardized, nonstandards—or ambiguous standards—are equally pervasive. ASI’s investigation into the airline industry makes evident that airline guidelines for standard cabin bag sizes are not the same. In Turkey, drinking tea out of a tulip-shaped glass is a ubiquitous part of daily life, yet there is no definitive size for a glass of tea, as underscored by ASI’s assembly and study of more than 100 of them.

This exhibition features 10 of ASI’s case studies, all displayed in identical wooden crates, inviting audiences to consider the implications and shortcomings of our standardized world as it profoundly shapes our lived experiences.

Wooden crate on a blue rolling dolly.

The wooden crates used by ASI to display their case studies

Ambiguous Standards Institute, 2020

All works are courtesy of Ambiguous Standards Institute.


Ambiguous Standards Institute: An Institute within an Institute is made possible by Jay Franke and David Herro. It is the third exhibition of the Franke/Herro Design Series, which highlights the work of important emerging talent.


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